Fantasia 2019 Review: READY OR NOT, Here Comes The Year’s Best Horror-Comedy

A hilarious and bloody "f***-you" to the 1%.

It’s hard not to feel a little out of place when you’re dating someone from a much wealthier background than yours. You have little in common; you’ve got different expectations and values; you don’t quite speak the same language. It puts a strain on even the strongest relationship. Ready Or Not, the new horror-comedy from filmmaking team Radio Silence, is a film about that type of situation. It’s also about being hunted down by Satanists.

An orphan marrying into a board-game family empire on the Milton-Bradley scale, Grace (Samara Weaving) has enough to contend with. Her new family is weird and standoffish, obsessed with traditions - the most sacred of which involves making any new addition to the family play a game on their wedding night. Which game is down to luck, and when Grace draws Hide And Seek, she quickly finds they’re not playing a children’s game. Instead, Grace is hunted by her new and diversely-armed family as a sacrifice to the Devil, and must hide, run, evade, and ultimately fight back.

What follows is an absolutely madcap movie hellbent on entertaining its audience by any means necessary. Stretching its “killer game of hide-and-seek” tagline until it snaps back in everyone’s face, it’s a propulsive and enthralling movie with serious venom in its bite. Expectations and genre tropes are subverted. Blood is spilled, accidentally and on purpose. Awful people meet with awful ends. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is used to great effect. It’s a punch-the-air good time.

Ready Or Not’s comedy comes not so much from jokes as from its cast of dysfunctional characters being pushed into escalatingly extreme situations. Grace’s new family is made up of a bunch of rich weirdos, each weird in their own way. There’s a dour, venomous aunt; a useless brother-in-law; a sister-in-law who tries to enhance her performance with substances but only ends up making more mistakes. Hunting down a human being, ever more desperate to kill that human being as dawn - and their family curse - looms, they're pushed to their limits, to considerably amusing results. Sometimes the characters are funny; sometimes they’re scary; most of the time, they’re both. The cast - including Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, and Andie McDowell (!) - does tremendous ensemble work, and thanks in part to that, the intensity never lets up.

Given that Ready Or Not is effectively a horror-thriller set in a single location, it's important that the action maintain a certain level of creativity and dynamism. Radio Silence certainly succeed in that goal, offering up mini-setpiece after mini-setpiece and utilising every nook and cranny of their heavily art-directed mansion location to maximum potential. The results are consistently exciting and pacey, and they don't disappoint where comes to horror either. Though the emphasis isn't on gore exactly, the violence is surprisingly intense all the same, heightened by moody cinematography and a punchy sound mix. The climax in particular is outrageously bloody, a mid-film scene gets huge squirmy mileage out of a simple nail, and MacDowell fans may want to look away at a certain point.

With rich folks this crazy, Ready Or Not is clearly a satire on wealth and privilege and the disconnect from reality that those things create. Thanks to its sprawling set of family relationships, the razor-sharp script explores this idea from a number of different angles, building up its argument against the 1% until it reaches an explosively confident concluding statement. In many ways, Ready Or Not is the movie that Satanic Panic should have been: both movies follow working-class would-be sacrifices on the run from Satan-worshipping rich folks, but only one of them has a firm hand on the rudder.

That journey wouldn’t work without an audience surrogate, and Samara Weaving does a tremendous job guiding us through her character’s punishing night of nuptials and human-hunting. Weaving absolutely fucking kills it in this movie, nimbly leaping from abject terror to genuine emotion and romance to a snappy edge of sardonic humor. It’s a star-making turn, if the film gets seen widely, and if there’s any justice in the world she’ll have a career as illustrious as her (currently) more-famous uncle. 

In Ready Or Not, Radio Silence have achieved the near-impossible: a horror-comedy-thriller that succeeds in every one of its constituent genres, and yet feels entirely whole. While it’s a very funny movie, the stakes always feel real and pressing, and the sense of danger is never diminished by the character comedy. It shouldn’t be surprising that they’ve managed to pull this off, considering their uncompromisingly bonkers segment of V/H/S, but horror-comedy is one of the hardest genres to nail, and they’ve done it. The film’s Fantasia Film Festival audience shrieked its approval at its many coup-de-grace moments. So will you.